Edmonton’s Isis Clothing Co. receives a daily barrage of threatening calls and emails. Ontario teenager Isis King was warned that she would have her Facebook account suspended until she picked a less “inappropriate” name.
A similar thing happened to San Francisco engineer Isis Anchalee, who suddenly found her account blocked.
“Facebook thinks I’m a terrorist,” wrote Anchalee in a widely circulated November Twitter message.
Isis is the ancient Egyptian goddess of magic and wisdom. The name adorns radio stations, software companies, news anchors, fashion models and a Bob Dylan song.
But just as its popularity seemed to be peaking in North America, the actions of a certain jihadist group have likely placed it alongside Adolf, Osama and Katrina in the ranks of taboo names.
“He said, ‘I’m not writing your name … this is not funny,” said Isis Fernandes, a nine-year-old Winnipeg girl, describing a November field trip encounter with a Canadian Forces soldier who was penning her name on an obstacle course participation certificate.
The name Isis was non-existent in Ontario delivery rooms before the 1990s, but reached double-digits in 2006 and 2009.
Quebec has averaged three new girls a year with the name Isis since 2009. Twelve of them have a listed Canadian phone number.
In 2014, when the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (also known as ISIL) was still being described as an “ultra-conservative” faction of al-Qaida, 396 U.S. babies were given the name Isis. In 2005, it was the country’s 522nd most popular baby name, ahead of Sylvia, Larissa and even Marilyn.
In British Columbia, the Canadian epicentre of experimental baby names, 2014 saw the name reach an all-time high of seven babies.
Name data have not yet been tallied for 2015, but if history is any guide, the heyday of Isis is likely at an end after the high-profile atrocities committed by the group known as ISIS.
Notably, the once-popular name Adolf (also spelled Adolph) was gradually scrubbed from worldwide birth certificates after the rise and fall of Nazi German leader Adolf Hitler.
In Ontario, even the anti-German sentiment following the First World War could not stop 30 new Adolphs from being born in Ontario in 1918-27. But the name has not resurfaced since.
In the United States, Adolph ranked just behind Jeff in popularity in 1939. By 1970, the last year for which data are available, there were only 74 American Baby Adolphs, most of whom now likely go by the name “Adi” or “Dolf.”
We have people come in and act like they’ve just solved a big mystery, like we are the ones behind these guys
The only notable exception is the Netherlands. Sixty Dutch babies were named “Adolph” in the year the country surrendered to the Nazis. Seven years later, when the country was still recovering from the devastating effects of German occupation, 69 babies got the name.
In Ontario, the baby name Osama (which means “lion” in Arabic) first showed up in 1981, and was assigned to 60 babies before permanently disappearing from the scene right around September, 2001.
Women named Isis have fought back against using their name as a reference to the Middle Eastern terrorist organization, advocating the substitute names ISIL or Daesh. An online petition asking “every media outlet in the United States” to “stop calling the terrorists by our name” now has more than 60,000 signatures.
But in the business world, a flight away from the name continues. New York’s Isis Pharmaceuticals Inc. changed its name to Ionis Pharmaceuticals last month. December also saw the University of Iowa changing the name of the online Iowa Student Information System (ISIS).
And a name change is being mulled at Calgary’s Isis jewelry store.
“We have people come in and act like they’ve just solved a big mystery, like we are the ones behind these guys,” owner Amyn Jagshi told Metro in September.
National Post, with files from the Canadian Press